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Sunday 09 April 2017

Burning with hatred

Posted in: True Stories
By Jacqui Stanford - 20th January 2011

Mangawhai Heads is gorgeous Northland town where city folk flock for surf, sand and sun over the summer months.

But the mostly-sleepy seaside spot is currently the home of a hideous and homophobic arson attack, which has left a lesbian couple in their 60s not only devoid of a business, but also without irreplaceable reminders of many precious memories.

The words scrawled on their car

On Saturday the 8th January, civil union partners Lindsay Curnow and Juliet Leigh found the words "filthy dikes" [sic] scrawled on the packing shed of their Mangawhai Heads-based business Blooming Bulbs. "Dirty dikes" was written on the wall of their house, while their car was also targeted with "dikes trash".

The following Saturday, the packing shed was set on fire. It was ultimately so badly damaged it has to be destroyed, in a crime which has left the couple and their local community in utter shock.

The burnt-out shed, where as Curnow puts it "Blooming Bulbs no longer blooms"

The women can't imagine who would do such a thing and at this stage the police have no suspects. Curnow and Leigh have lived in Mangawhai Heads for seven years and say throughout that time they have never had a cross word with anyone.

They celebrated their civil union in the town in 2006, as a double celebration with Leigh's 60th birthday. The bash was complete with "best women" and "matrons of dishonour", with the women who worked in the shed for them helping them pack during their busy period volunteering to waitress as their civil union present.

Blooming Bulbs was their semi-retirement plan and they worked for around 6-7 months of the year. They say it's just a tiny "cottage" business with a mail order catalogue and a website.

"We were about to start our season which runs from 1st February to the end of June each year," Curnow says. "As it is just us two, and we are in our 60s, there is no way we could get things up and running in time to trade this season."

Curnow says the arson has left them contemplating shutting up shop for good. "While we are insured, you never expect a total wipe-out like this, so it won't be really covered. I don't think we will be able to afford to start up again and we don't really have the heart for it."

The message on the Blooming Bulbs website

Not only have they lost the shed which was central to their business, but a number of personal belongings and clothes they had stored inside the shed when they cleared space for tenants, while they went to Cologne to sing with GALS at the Gay Games and travelled in Europe last year.

I have lost the memory stick that I kept my ancestry file on," Curnow says. "I had my Dad's family back to William the Conqueror and Mum's back to 1710 Northern Ireland."

Curnow also lost many musical arrangements she had done for GALS, which were on a memory stick and that was in her desk drawer in the shed.

"Juliet had many cards and photos stored there from old friends and lovers and mementos of her kids' early years," she says. "Those things break our hearts."

If the wind had not been blowing away from their home and two other nearby homes, Curnow says things could have been a lot worse as a result of the fire. "The local community is shocked. We can't imagine that it could be someone who lives here," she says.

"We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the kindness, love and thoughtfulness shown to us by the people here locally. Juliet's kids rushed up the day after with food and love and comfort, and friends and colleagues have been around to support us. Everyone is offering help but there is not much to be done. We are sifting through the mess trying to remember what was there."

Curnow says their immediate reaction was to leave the town, but they have calmed down a bit now. "There are quite a few gay and lesbian people living up here so everyone is rather worried," she says. "We are wondering what we might arrive home to if we go out."

They have borrowed a friend's noisy terriers to be watchdogs at night and their electrician has put in extra security lighting.

"However, as one of our friends said, you've got each other and you've still got your fishing rod," Curnow finishes.

A proud moment: The pair (seen front and centre) made the big screen at the Cologne Gay Games

As the women can't imagine who could have carried out the graffiti and arson, police say they need public help tracking down whoever is responsible. Anyone with information that could assist the police is asked to contact Detective John Gilbert at the Rodney CIB, or call the Crimestoppers line anonymously on 0800-555-111.

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Jacqui Stanford - 20th January 2011